Saturday, 29 September 2007

Saturday in Town

Any Saturday in town is a busy day. Folks come in from the outlying district, locals rise early to drive the short distance to the queue to enter Sainsburys car park, mums with kids make sure their little darlings are on their worst behaviour before leaving home, and to start the day the postman rings the wrong bell at 7:30 just to let you know he has been up since 4:30!

The fruit and veg stalls in the market do manage to look attractive in the sunshine. I have always been tempted to get the camera and attempt to capture the great colours shown there. I have never managed to get round to it, but one day, one day…. It is a small market town, much changed since the days cattle were penned in the town centre and real country folk wandered around speaking only in vowels, Ooo, aaarr, and all that. If you ever come across those that remain you feel you are trapped in an episode of Radio 4s ‘The Archers!’

The towns size is small, around 30,000 when I arrived eleven years ago, touching nearer 40,000 nowadays, yet on Saturday few appear to relish travelling the fifteen miles to one or other of the bigger towns in the area, instead I am under the impression they all want to be in ‘Tesco’ at three o’clock just when I am buying my ‘two for £5’ chickens. Now why should that be? Have they all deserted the other supermarkets just to annoy me? It seems so. The impression I am left with when in ‘Tesco’s’ at such a time is that I have some sort of sign across my forehead or on my back saying ‘This One!’ This gives the women permission to shove their trolleys straight at me as if I was not there, the aged men, always the older ones, permission to stand in the middle of the alley with a trolley and stare into space, and it also allows any brat within miles the right to scream and yell at much more than the regulation ninety decibels whenever I am in the vicinity. It never fails to amaze me the way mothers go on after you shove a kiwi fruit in the gob of such children, I mean it is full of Vitamin ‘C’ is it not?

Of course, after standing for a short eternity in a queue of folk who have no idea how to smile or communicate in anything other than confrontational grunts you then find a youth on the checkout who is going through his ‘hardman’ phase.’ Glancing contemptuously at you he hurries the goods through the till and repeats the total cost in an urgent manner while you struggle manfully to open the bag. Then taking his time to return the change, deliberately pushing it for all it’s worth he utters either a cheeky word or throws the money in such a way you drop t under the feet off all and sundry. The phrase ‘forgive your enemies’ comes to mind at this point, although by this time you have grabbed him by the throat and granted him your best ‘Glasgow Kiss.’ Unfortunately, not coming from Glasgow it hurts you as much as him. Then of course everyone else in the queue starts to complain, as they will have to wait longer. Then there is the problem of the other staff, the security man, the two, rather large and unpleasant police constables, the surly desk sergeant and the uncaring magistrate to deal with – and all for two chickens! Well, that’s how it usually works out for me anyway…..

Taking your headache through the market, being crushed by passing pushchairs at one side and ridiculously fat women at the other one heads for the charity bookshops. Well, they actually sell all the usual dross and are always full of women finding cheap clothes that make them look good, while what I buy makes me look like I have been to the charity shop! How come? Anyway it is the books we look at, I really need nothing else, the place is already full of tat, I glance quickly at one sometimes two or three rows of books and wonder what they tell us of the folk who live here. In this place we learn that the women are drenched in Catherine Cookson and Barbara Taylor Bradford type tales. In short, pap! Row after row fill the five charity shops we have left here, nothing more stimulating than those large annuals loved so much by the kids who received them at Christmas that most have pages missing, badly drawn stick men all over them, and the occasional remnant of sticky bun holding the thing together. When I lived in London the nearest ‘War on Want’ shop was in an area full of middle class trendies. The shelves were packed with good, and often pretentious, things. Vast quantities of books on architecture, history, art, society stood alongside photographic works from the best around, religious and philosophical works rested by books on advanced maths, which I ignored, and the society reflected was an educated thinking populace. Not, it must be said, a better one, although many thought they were, but a ‘thinking’ population. Here we are blest by Jilly Cooper……

Fighting past the hordes who stand with their pushchairs blocking the passageways, getting as close to the stall with the radio tuned to the football, and wondering just how the fat woman over there will ever attract folk to her driving lessons when surely if she enters a car it will tip to one side, passing the man selling cheap watches, my last one from him lasted exactly 24 hours, and resisting the attractions on offer at the ‘Wimpy’ bar I make for home.

Watching the queue at the cashpoint I wonder that there is anything left by this time of day and collect yet another leaflet, not from the ‘Kings Church’ this time, the local music group advertising their next out of tune spectacular. The traffic which has polluted the atmosphere while arriving now does the same on the slow road home. Piled high in the boot are masses of real bargains from the supermarkets that will no doubt be thrown out rotten and unused in the weeks to come. It lies alongside the desperately wanted shiny new objects that will soon lie gathering dust under the bed or broken on the floor of the kids room.

Cynical, who me?

Maybe, but this is real life, well, with a slight exaggeration here and there, and I suddenly find I love it. How funny. This is home, in spite of it all, and it’s better than some places I’ve been.

I must be sick…….

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